COP26 won’t be just another climate talk

What COP26 means for our future and how you can get involved

Climate policy has been in the public spotlight for around three decades, and ostensibly at the forefront of the political agenda for the last decade, so it seems strange that we are still waiting on “the next IPCC report”. This is to say that world leaders are suffering from a pathology known as “climate action procrastination”.

What infuriates us about climate laggards is that the IPCC have made it unequivocally clear, again and again, that we have until 2030 to mobilise policy action and reduce emissions to “limit a climate change induced catastrophe”. We’re now just a few weeks out from COP26, which is taking place in Glasgow, our own backyard, this November. There’s no better time to get involved and tell your local council to step up to the plate.

If there’s one thing we want you to take away from this humble blog post it’s this: local councils all over the UK have billions of pounds invested in sketchy fossil fuel funds – a fact starkly at odds with their public pronouncements about the need for climate action. That’s why we’re joining our charity partner Protect Our Winters UK in urging you to urge your local council to Divest The Dirt.

You can do so quickly and easily by following the link above. Dive in below for more detail.

What is COP?

COP stands for Conference of Parties and is essentially an annual climate meeting of all 197 members, hosted by the UN as part of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Founded after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the UNFCCC is essentially the world’s leading climate change framework, bringing together scientists and world leaders to develop climate mitigation pathways.

Good COP / Bad COP

The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995. COP26 won’t just be the 26th gathering of climate actors but also the most important, coming at a time when serious emission cuts are needed to avoid the most disastrous impacts of climate change.

The 2015 COP resulted in the Paris Agreement, which was signed by 195 countries representing 88% of global emissions (the USA recently rejoined the agreement, four years after its withdrawal under the Trump administration). This agreement calls on members to reduce emissions in line with a 2 °C warming pathway, and to aim for 1.5 °C.

Copping out?

To date, world leaders have been full of promising talk but reluctant to commit to genuine change, and even more reluctant to stick to those commitments they do make. One damning example: the voluntary pledges made in the Paris deal, if met, would “only add up to one third of the emissions reductions necessary” for a 2 °C warming scenario.

As Boris Johnson puts it, the agenda for the event is “coal, cash, cars and trees”. Members are hoping that through exiting from coal, increasing climate finance for reduction strategies in the developing world, transitioning early to electric vehicles and reducing deforestation, global emissions can be cut by 45% by 2030.

What are our charity partners doing?

Our climate charity partners Protect Our Winters UK are based in Scotland, so it’s no surprise that in the lead up to COP26 they’ve launched their biggest campaign to date.

Here’s a dirty secret: 75% of local councils in the UK have declared a climate emergency, yet these same councils collectively hold investments of nearly £10 billion in sketchy fossil fuel funds, in the form of public pensions. The money we’re ostensibly saving for the future is helping to destroy it.

Protect Our Winters are asking your local council to divest the dirt – but to make that happen, you need to ask them too. POW have drafted a letter so you don’t have to. It takes approximately 30 seconds to send.

Protect Our Winters UK is an outdoors climate action charity helping passionate outdoor people become effective climate advocates to achieve systemic solutions to climate change. The outdoors is great. Getting dirty is good. But while you’re out there getting dirty on your favourite trail, up a hill, or in the woods, local councils are getting your taxpayer money really dirty. There’s about £2.6 trillion in UK pensions alone and a lot of it funds harmful industries like fossil fuels, tobacco, and arms [source: Make My Money Matter].

Investing pensions in fossil fuels is literally fuelling climate change and undermining local, national, and international commitments. 

It’s time to Divest The Dirt. Luckily, divestment is simple. It means moving money from one place to another: from investments in dirty, climate-destroying industries like fossil fuels to sustainable investments like renewables. There are sustainable alternatives to fossil fuel investments, and so far 18 local government pension funds in the UK have made either full or partial divestment commitments. It’s time that the rest join them. You have the power to help us make it happen now.

What are we doing about it?

Photo: Tom Vaughan

The Paris Deal in 2015 made it clear to us that we needed to be reducing our own emissions in line with IPCC emission-reduction pathways. It’s now 2021 and we are proud to announce that despite growing larger as a company we have reduced our scope 1 and 2 emissions – basically the “in-house” emissions, or the kind we have direct control over –  by 93% since 2018. 

We are therefore ahead of our Science Based Targets and Business Ambition for a 1.5 °C scenario, which requires us to reduce in line with net zero (i.e. net zero by 2050). Switching to 100% renewable energy contracts, increasing solar PV… these are just a few of the things a company can do. 

Clever accounting won’t fool the climate any longer. We know that our scope 3 emissions – accrued indirectly in our supply chains, which may be behind schedule on the journey to decarbonisation – are much harder to monitor and reduce. Instead of letting perfect be the enemy of good, we’re about to introduce a lowest CO2 delivery option at checkout, called the ‘Greenest Delivery’. Keep your eyes peeled, it’s due to launch soon. This is just one attempt we’re making to lower our indirect emissions.

How can you get involved?

Ask your council to divest:

Choose ethical pensions:

  • The majority of us are auto-enrolled in “default fund” pensions.
  • “Nine times out of ten, [these] are going into tobacco firms, oil and gas majors, mining, big pharma and big banks: social, climate and environmental breakdown, in other words” [Source: Good with Money].
  • Divest your pension easily here.

Ask your employer to divest

  • If your employer has you enrolled in a “default fund”, ask them to enrol you in an ethical fund pension. That’s it.
  • Start the conversation here.


  • If the Protect Our Winters campaign has influenced you and you want to join the fight, why not make a donation and help them increase their influence.

Make each decision count:

  • Consume less. Buy long-lasting gear. Move away from fossil fuel based materials such as plastics (polyester, nylon, etc.), or make sure these plastics have been recycled (thus bypassing the oil industry).
  • Shop Surfdome’s sustainable gear listing

Follow Protect our Winters UK, and learn more about how to influence sustainability policy in the lead up to COP26:

Share the Divest The Dirt campaign on social media:

  • Tag your favourite brands so they can get involved 
  • Share on social media: FB square, Instagram square, Twitter square
  • POW posts to share: LinkedIn, Instagram
  • Hashtags: #DivestTheDirt
  • Caption 1:  Public money is funding the climate crisis, it’s time to Divest the Dirt 
  • Caption 2: Pensions are supposed to fund our future, but instead they’re destroying it
  • Full asset pack for businesses

Hopefully, this blog has you fired up to stay informed during the lead up to COP26, and feeling a little bit more empowered. Lots of seemingly small actions done at scale have the ability to influence government policy.

Reaching net zero and reducing emissions is a collective effort – with enough support we can influence other companies to join the fight.

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